Friday, December 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

Two years ago Netflix gave us the delightful fantasy THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES (2018), starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus, in a performance which was simultaneously hip and authentic.

It was an inventive and amusing movie which left this viewer wanting more, which arrived this year in the form of THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 2 (2020).  Russell and Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Santa are as delightful as ever, but alas, this film was a disappointment.

The movie begins with the same children from the previous film, Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp), who had met Santa during an exciting Christmas adventure.  They're now vacationing in Cancun with their widowed mother Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), her boyfriend Bob (Tyrese Gibson of the Fast & Furious movie series), and Bob's young son Jack (Jahzir Bruno).

Kate is unhappy about her mother's new relationship, and she's bratty enough about it to try to run off and fly home.  Instead she and Jack are kidnapped by Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), an elf-turned-human who is unhappy with life as a human and is seeking revenge on Santa. 

When Santa rescues the children, it unleashes Belsnickel's plan to hitch a ride to the North Pole on Santa's sleigh, destroy Santa's Village, and ruin Christmas for everyone.

I'm a "glass is half full" kind of viewer, but what a disappointment this was after so enjoying the original film.  For starters, the script is disjointed and uninteresting, and Camp as Kate is such a pill early on that it takes considerable movie time just to get her back to the place where she's a sympathetic young heroine.

Her brother Teddy was clearly viewed by the filmmakers as "too old" for the story, so in time-honored "Cousin Oliver" tradition the producers brought in the younger Jack, leaving Teddy stuck offscreen in Cancun for most of the movie.  Bruno as Jack is a cute kid but adding him just felt obvious and hackneyed.

The film's biggest problem is that the villain, Belsnickel, is completely uninteresting.  Dennison gives such a flat, boring performance that I really don't know what they were thinking in terms of either casting or writing.  I suspect that they didn't want the villain of the piece to be too interesting so that the character would ultimately be redeemable, but...bad character, bad performance.  

Russell and Hawn are completely charming as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and their (CGI-built) world is great fun.  I needed more elves shrieking things like "He's coming in hot!" when Santa's sleigh zooms in for a landing, Mr and Mrs. Santa falling asleep to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and fun bits like the village theater marquee changing from BAD SANTA (shown when all seems lost) to ELF.  That's the kind of charm which made the original movie so good.  

But when you have much of the movie being about the village being destroyed -- and the story getting rather dark, as Dasher at one point might be mortally wounded -- you don't have much room for the fun, clever, and creative bits which are so much fun to watch.  (P.S. Dasher is a female?)

I definitely wanted to watch more of Mr. and Mrs. Santa at the North Pole, but this script needed to go back to the drawing board.  It was cowritten by the film's director, Chris Columbus (HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR'S STONE), and Matt Lieberman, who wrote the first film's screenplay.  At 112 minutes it also came in slightly long, compared to the original film's 104 minutes.

The movie was filmed by Don Burgess, who also worked on the prior film.

THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 2 streams on Netflix.  A trailer can be seen on YouTube.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

It is a shame when something like this sequel goes wrong. The trailer said "avoid" to me and I trust your judgment.

4:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yes, you know I'm always a "look for the good" kind of viewer but this one really let me down. I would suggest sticking to the memories of the original.

Best wishes,

1:50 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"Dasher is a female?"

Science now tells us that, if we accept the traditional image of Santa's reindeer, they're all female.

Turns out that male reindeer have shed their antlers by mid-December, females still have their headgear come Christmas. So if you want antlered reindeer pulling the sleigh then they're alllll ladies.

Which is fine by me.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's hilarious, Rick. Who knew?! Thanks for that.

Best wishes,

6:25 PM  

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